Figures of Exchange: A Poststructuralist Semiotics of Reading



In the foregoing chapters I have reviewed recent practices of reading based on subjective and sociocultural negotiation (reader-response), rhetorical subversion (deconstruction), and a non-oedipal, anti-phallogocentric model of literary exchange (femin-ism). Loosely allied under a common critique of text-centered hermeneutics, these poststructuralist and reader-oriented approaches allow interpretive subjects to intervene more actively in the process of narrative exchange. Critical reading in this perspective is no longer an ancillary activity, passively receiving ‘the imprint of the poem’, but ‘an active, self-ordering and self-corrective process’2 which leads to a reformulation of textual and readerly grids. But while these models of recreative reading allow us to engage more meaningfully with the texts of our culture, freeing us from the immediate pressures of the conformity-to-thetext ideology, their interpretive effectiveness is conditioned by our awareness of the epistemological assumptions and articulatory strategies that we bring to bear on texts. In what follows, I intend to pursue this line of thought further, seeking ways in which the critical philosophies of poststructuralism can be used more rigorously to highlight the articulatory models on which narratives and our interpretations rely. What I am in effect proposing is a synthesis, however provisional, between the revisionistic, anti-systematic disposition of poststructuralism and the investigative rigour of cultural semiotics. Each perspective would act as a facilitator and corrective for the other; together they could provide us with finer critical tools and a more nuanced understanding of the acts of appropriation, reformulation, and self-recreation involved in reading.


Literary Text Narrative Text Model Reader Interpretive Strategy Critical Practice 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Marcel Cornis-Pop 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUK

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